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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

3. Gothic Undercurrents

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
•  Timeline
•  Activities
- Overview Questions
- Video
- Author
- Context
- Creative Response
- PBL Projects

Activities: Context Activities

Core Contexts
Swamps, Dismal and Otherwise
According to David C. Miller in his book Dark Eden, the idea of the swamp underwent an important change in the mid-nineteenth century. The swamp, he says, had long been full of theological and folk loric implications: "It was the domain of sin, death, and decay; the stage for witchcraft; the habitat of weird and ferocious creatures."... Go

The Spirit Is Willing: The Occult and Women in the Nineteenth Century
The nineteenth century saw an upsurge of interest in occult and supernatural phenomena, especially attempts to contact the spirits of dead loved ones. Enlightenment reason had by now taken its toll on the Calvinist faith of early America and its belief in original sin: far fewer people... Go

America on the Rocks: The Image of the "Ship of State"
Writers often create coherence in their writing by employing literary motifs--themes, characters, or verbal patterns that recur throughout the work. Sometimes writers draw these motifs out of their imagina tion, but other times they are popular symbols from a writer's era. One important cultural motif for nineteenth-century political... Go

Extended Contexts
Unnatural Reason/Weird Science
Alongside the enthusiasm for technological progress and the Industrial Revolution, the nineteenth century experienced widespread anxiety about the costs of technology and resulting urbanization and alienation. Herman Melville, in "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids," and Rebecca Harding Davis, in Life in the Iron Mills... Go

"Sleeping Beauty": Sentimentalizing Death in the Nineteenth Century
In the mid-nineteenth century, death was less often seen as the occasion for a final judgment of the sinning soul and more often as the passage to a comforting "home." As it had always been in America, death was still a family affair, much more a part of everyday life than in our own day; rather than... Go

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